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LINCOLN PARK — Marcial Bereciartu, owner of the new Strapoli Pizza in Lincoln Park, got his start making pizzas as a kid, preparing dough at his parents’ pizzeria in Venezuela.
The pizzeria was a family business where Bereciartu and all his siblings helped out, whether it was by preparing pizza boxes or serving tables. As a kid, Bereciartu would spend Sundays at the pizzeria learning math from his dad and helping make dough during their tutoring breaks.
“We grew up surrounded by pizza and learned everything about making it and running the business from our parents,” Bereciartu said.
After relocating to the United States five years ago, Bereciartu is bringing his pizzeria experience — and family’s secret dough recipe — to Chicago.
Strapoli Pizza, 545 W. Diversey Parkway, celebrates its grand opening Friday after a weeklong soft launch.
The pizzeria and cafe serves Neapolitan-style pizzas inspired by Bereciartu’s family recipes in a fast-casual setting. It also has a breakfast menu of sandwiches using Strapoli’s signature pizza dough and cafe drinks from Dark Matter Coffee.
Much like Rubén Pizza, the family business in Venezuela, Strapoli is a family affair involving Bereciartu’s parents, who moved to Chicago a few years ago, and his brother.
“I’m a lucky guy to have my family and friends around me,” Bereciartu said. “This combination of forces is what makes Strapoli possible.”
Bereciartu’s parents, Rubén and Marlene Bereciartu, opened their first pizzeria 37 years ago in Merida, a small Venezuelan mountain city, he said. They ran the pizzeria for several years before moving to a larger location in another neighborhood, where they operated for the next few decades.
Old photos documenting the family business’ history are on display at Strapoli.
“Strapoli exists because we have all this experience in the pizzeria industry,” Bereciartu said. “I grew up with this example that you can work not just for money, but to have fun with your family, serve your community and make good pizza.”
Bereciartu and his family started planning Strapoli a few years ago, experimenting by making various pizzas in their apartment for friends and family, he said. That led to them selling their pies at three local farmers markets.
Bereciartu met his now-landlord at one of the farmers markets, and the landlord took an interest in their business and encouraged them to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“It all happened so fast from there,” Bereciartu said.
The 10-inch pizzas come in multiple varieties or a build-your-own option, Bereciartu said.
The most popular pizza during Strapoli’s farmers market days was the pistachina, which uses pistachio pesto topped with fior di latte mozzarella, mushrooms and crushed pistachio.
The sweet bacon pizza is another favorite, Bereciartu said. It comes with bacon, fior di latte mozzarella, arugula and hot honey.
The restaurant also serves multiple breakfast and lunch sandwiches inspired by the pizzas.
The name, Strapoli, is a combination of “strada,” the Italian word for street, and Napoli, the Italian city where Neapolitan-style pizzas originated.
Bereciartu designed Strapoli’s logo and selected the restaurant’s color palette of blue and white walls with brown accents. The music is Bereciartu’s personal playlist, which is heavy on Jack Johnson and other related artists.
“We’ve created a cozy place with a good atmosphere,” Bereciartu said. “You’ve got family working here, good music and what some people say is the best pizza in town right now.”
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